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Kenneth M. Workman v. Brent Reinke

September 22, 2011

KENNETH M. WORKMAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BRENT REINKE, DIRECTOR OF IDOC, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable B. Lynn Winmill Chief U. S. District Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

Before the Court in this prisoner civil rights matter is Defendant Brent Reinke's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 37). Also pending is Plaintiff's Motion for Permission for Leave of the Court to Proceed with Presenting Exhibits (Dkt. 33). The Court finds that decisional process would not be aided by oral argument, and it will resolve these matters after consideration of the parties' written briefing. D. Idaho L. Civ. R. 7.1(d).

After being fully advised, the Court enters the following Order granting Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

BACKGROUND

In 2001, Plaintiff was the driver of a vehicle on Interstate 84 that crashed into two pickups that were legally parked, one in front of the other, on the shoulder of the highway. (Dkt. 37-5, Ex. B.) Diane King and Anthony Barton were standing between the pickups when they were struck, and both were seriously injured. (Dkt. 37-5, pp. 11-14.) Plaintiff had high levels of heroin, amphetamine, and methadone in his blood at the time of the crash, and the State charged him with two counts of aggravated driving under the influence (DUI), one count of possession of a controlled substance, and a sentencing enhancement of being a persistent violator of the law. (Dkt. 37-5, Ex. B.)

Plaintiff eventually agreed to plead guilty to the aggravated DUI counts and to the persistent violator charge, in exchange for the State's dismissal of the possession count and its agreement to recommend a sentence of life in prison with 25 years fixed. (Dkt. 37-5, Ex. B.) Ada County District Judge Deborah Bail did not follow the recommendation and instead sentenced Plaintiff to life in prison without the possibility of parole on each count. (Id.)

Under the plea agreement, the State was also allowed to seek restitution, and the prosecutor filed a Motion for Civil Judgment for Restitution in the amount of $700,000. (Dkt. 37-6, Ex. F.) Plaintiff was represented by counsel at a restitution hearing, after which Judge Bail ordered him to pay $32,391.44 in restitution, with interest accruing annually. (Dkt. 37-6, Ex. G.) Judge Bail's order also serves as a civil judgment against Plaintiff. (Id.)

The restitution order was sent to the Idaho Department of Correction (IDOC), and, beginning in September 2003, IDOC began deducting 25% of the funds in Plaintiff's inmate trust account on a monthly basis to go toward satisfying the judgment. (Dkt. 37-11, Affidavit of Shirley Audens at ¶ 9.) These automatic deductions occurred pursuant to IDOC written policy, and the employee who implemented the policy has no discretion in the matter. (Audens Aff. at ¶¶ 3, 6-7.) Monetary gifts to prisoners are not exempt from the automatic withholding, unless the court that issued the order expressly exempts them. (Id. at ¶ 8.)

On October 6, 2003, Plaintiff began filing concern forms at the prison to complain about the deduction of funds and to request a copy of a garnishment order or a writ of execution. (Dkt. 37-7, Affidavit of Chester Penn at ¶ 10.) Plaintiff received responses from staff indicating that the restitution order was sufficient to justify the deductions, and a copy of the order was sent to him. (Dkt. 37-7, Ex. D.) These responses were unsatisfactory to Plaintiff, so on July 21, 2004, he filed a Motion to Cease and Desist Restitution and Terminate Restitution Withholding in the state district court. (Dkt, 37-6, Defendant's Exhibit D.) In his Motion, Plaintiff argued that the monthly deductions had placed a significant hardship on him while he was in prison. (Id. at 2-3.) The district court denied the Motion without comment. (Id. at 1.)

Plaintiff was transferred to an out-of-state prison in 2007, where the deductions apparently stopped. (Dkt. 39, p. 2.) When he returned to Idaho in 2009, prison officials again starting deducting funds from his account. Plaintiff submitted new concern forms on this subject, followed by grievances, all of which were unsuccessful. (Dkt. 3, Exhibits D, E.)

On February 16, 2010, Plaintiff filed a Prisoner Civil Rights Complaint in this Court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Dkt. 3.) In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he has not been presented with notice or had an opportunity to object before the funds are taken out of his account, as required by state law. (Id. at 2.) Based on this, Plaintiff claims that his property has been taken from him without due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. (Id. at 2-3.)

The Court conducted an initial review of the Complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) and 1915A, and allowed Plaintiff to go forward with his claims against IDOC Director Brent Reinke, Warden Phillip Valdez, and "others responsible for deducting funds who are presently unknown to Plaintiff." (Dkt. 14, p. 3.) All other named Defendants were dismissed. (Id.) Plaintiff later chose to dismiss Valdez and all other unknown employees at the Idaho Correctional Center and to proceed only against Director Reinke. (Dkts. 24, 30.)

Reinke has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, arguing that (1) Plaintiff did not exhaust his administrative remedies before filing his lawsuit, (2) Plaintiff's claims are barred by the statute of limitations, (3) his due process rights have not been violated, (4) there is no evidence that Reinke participated personally in any alleged violations that may have occurred, and (5) Reinke is entitled to qualified immunity from damages. (Dkt. 37-1, p. 2.) Also pending is Plaintiff's motion requesting permission to submit prisoner affidavits without identifying the prisoners' names, which the Court will address as part of its summary judgment discussion.

For the reasons that follow, the Court concludes that Plaintiff exhausted his administrative remedies and that this action is timely as to claims based on deductions from Plaintiff's account that occurred after February 16, 2008. Claims that accrued before that date are untimely and will not be considered. The Court further concludes that Plaintiff was not deprived of due process of law, and, moreover, that Reinke is entitled to qualified immunity from damages.

EXHAUSTION OF ADMINISTRATIVE REMEDIES

1. Standard of Law

The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) provides that "[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title ... until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted." 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). "There is no question that exhaustion is mandatory under the PLRA and that unexhausted claims cannot be brought in court." Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 211 (2007). This requirement is intended to give "prison officials an opportunity to resolve disputes concerning the exercise of their responsibilities before being haled into court." Id. at 204.

Proper exhaustion is required, meaning that "a prisoner must complete the administrative review process in accordance with the applicable procedural rules, including deadlines, as a precondition to bringing suit in federal court." Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 88 (2006). "The level of detail necessary in a grievance to comply with the grievance procedures will vary from system to system and claim to claim, but it is the ...


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